Condenser Speeds Dial-Up

By Cameron Sturdevant  |  Posted 2001-10-22

Condenser Speeds Dial-Up

Faster web site response for dial-up users is the probable payoff for content providers that install Condenser 3.0 from FineGround Networks Inc.

Condenser 3.0, which shipped last month, sits next to the origin Web server and tracks page requests, serving up only the changes between a reference "base" page and new content provided by the server. During eWeek Labs tests, Condenser 3.0 served up tiny delta files as small as 7KB to 12KB, instead of sending 47KB files that were the size of the entire page. This resulted in faster page response over a 56K-bps, dial-up connection. No appreciable benefit was seen when content was provided over a LAN.

New in this version is FlashForward object acceleration, which is a big improvement for sites that have multitudes of static image files. Instead of forcing a lot of back-and-forth between the browser and the origin server to check the "freshness" of the object, FlashForward uses tags embedded automatically by Condenser 3.0.

During tests, version information was efficiently transmitted in a single, compressed document. This added pepper to the responses we got—only a second or two compared with 6 or more seconds for pages handled without Condenser 3.0.

The Condenser 3.0 license costs $50,000 per processor—a reasonable price for an acceleration tool—and runs on Linux or Solaris. We conducted tests on a Pentium III-equipped system running Red Hat Inc.s Linux Version 7.1.

Condenser 3.0 is unique among accelerator technologies that weve tested in that it identifies new content within a Web page instead of finding ways to serve the whole page faster. But that doesnt mean other acceleration tools shouldnt be considered. A flotilla of Web acceleration tools, from edge appliances to proxy caches to database performance tools, is also available. Look for further eWeek Labs coverage of these products in future issues.

Although we recommend IT managers consider newcomer FineGround, our tests showed that Condenser 3.0 yields widely varying results based on the content being served. We found the greatest speed improvements when the Web page contained lots of personalized information such as stock quotes, account information or order status forms. We used a new Condenser 3.0 utility to get an idea of the performance improvement we should expect from various Web pages (see screen).

Although Condenser 3.0 works fine on static content, products that do the job better and cost less are available from companies such as CacheFlow Technologies Inc.

In addition, if Condenser 3.0 is overwhelmed with requests, it quietly forwards requests to the origin server without becoming a single point of failure in the network.


-Based Benefits">

Browser-Based Benefits

condenser 3.0 relies on the end users browser to provide much of its pep. Specifically, this means support for HTTP 1.1, which is found in the vast majority of browsers, including most versions of Internet Explorer and Netscape. Browsers without this support can still work with an origin server that is using Condenser 3.0; they just wont get any of the benefits.

We didnt have to make any change to HTML code to get Condenser 3.0 to work on the test system. Instead, Condenser 3.0 used its FlashForward technology and added tags and expiration dates to our objects (such as images) to reduce needless communication with the server. It goes without saying that this also expedited the use of cached objects on the browser. Furthermore, Condenser 3.0 also "condensed" pages to only the changes since the last request to reduce bandwidth consumption.

The process works like this: A user requests a page from the origin server. Condenser 3.0 notes the request and issues a cookie to the user and creates a base page, which is a copy of the result generated by the server. A subsequent request for the same page by the same user or a different user who is known to Condenser 3.0 still generates a request to the origin server for the content. Condenser 3.0 compares the new content with the stored base page and then creates a delta file containing the changes. This page is compressed and sent to the user where the new content is used.

In tests, the process worked smoothly and with no intervention required on our part.

Condenser 3


Condenser 3.0


FineGrounds updated Condenser speeds content delivery by sending only the changes between Web pages and by using FlashForward tags that optimize object caching. The product should be especially useful for content providers whose clients connect over dial-up lines.

SHORT-TERM BUSINESS IMPACT // Condenser 3.0 should immediately speed up users browsing experience, thereby making it more likely that they will stay with a site to conduct their e-business.

LONG-TERM BUSINESS IMPACT // Companies should estimate the number of years they anticipate end users coming to a Web site over dial-up lines. The longer that time span is, the greater the payoff will be for companies using Condenser 3.0.

PROS: Requires no code changes to original Web site content; substantially reduces bandwidth consumption.

CONS: Doesnt work with older browsers.

FineGround Networks Inc., Campbell, Calif.; (408) 376-0570;

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